Get all of the information on Mavericks Volleyball with Luke Brietzke, Sports Information Director.Senior Day reflections
7 p.m. Saturday, November 13, 2010
As a Senior Day tribute, the UT Arlington players wanted to express their memories and thoughts on the three seniors - Raegan Daniel, Christy Driscoll and Bianca Sauls.
"These three seniors will be forever remembered because they are all genuinely great people," Tara Frantz said.
"Their leadership has been so diverse," Amanda Aguilera said. "Bianca leads us with her energy, Raegan with her calmness and she is always collected and Christy with her leadership off the court."
Here is a look at the 2010 senior class, in their own words as well as the words of their head coach and teammates:
A three-year captain, Daniel will finish her career ranked seventh all-time in UTA history in career assists and career attack percentage. Daniel also played her way onto two preseason all-tournament teams during her career. In the classroom, Daniel has been named to the SLC Honor Roll all four years.
Here's a look back in Daniel's own words:
Looking back: "I don't remember the games so much as the girls. I can play volleyball anytime when I'm done here. It's the girls. I love being part of a team."
Best match memory: "Probably Texas State this year at home because it was my last time to play them at home and we were able to win."
Here's a look back at Daniel's career on and off the court in the words of coach Diane Seymour and some returning UTA players:
Diane Seymour: "Obviously Raegan would have ranked higher on the all-time assist list if she had been able to start her freshman year. She was capable of it, but we got a really good transfer that year and Raegan understood. That allowed her to watch and learn a little bit. I'm definitely pleased with Raegan's performance on and off the court. She is well-deserving of being honored three times by her teammates to be named captain. She exemplifies everything you could want in a captain. She works hard every day. She is always ready to get to work and enjoyed the work she put in. She's a good leader in the weight room and is a good leader off the court as well. Anytime we need something done we go to Raegan to make sure it gets done. She's been there for her teammates and she's been a wonderful student-athlete as well. I can't say enough about her. It will be a tough one to see her go after spending five years with us."
Amanda Aguilera: "I'll remember her funny sayings on the court like, `We are weeening,' or `No problem.' She is sly about her comments - funny or smart."
Tara Frantz: "I will miss every single thing about this girl. Not only was she a great leader and captain, she was the greatest person off the court also."
Emily Gentle: "Raegan is such a great leader on and off the court and she is super-intense."
Charae Grosser: "Raegan is one of the funniest people I've ever met. She can turn the most boring moment into the craziest just by making one of her Raegan comments."
Taylor Jacobs: "Raegan performed so well as a leader by always making big plays happen with her sets." Jessica Jiles: "I have never seen such a strong, laid-back and motivated person. She inspires and gives me hope with everything I do. I have been looking forward to playing with Rae since I was in high school. I have never seen a setter as good as her."
Chelsea Mayor: "My favorite memory of Raegan is watching her act goofy in the locker room. I enjoy watching how experienced and comfortable she is on the court, how good the team chemistry is and how solid of a leader and player she is."
Alicia Shaffer: "We kick the ball back and forth before each home match."
Kendall Whitson: "I will always remember you reassuring me that you believe in me and teaching me to play for my team."
A three-year starter, Driscoll has 274 blocks over her three years with the Mavericks. Her 108 blocks in 2008 rank third all-time on the freshman single-season list at UTA. Driscoll has made the Academic All-Southland Conference Team in each of the last two years and has been an SLC Honor Roll recipient in each of her three seasons.
Here's a look back in Driscoll's own words:
Most memorable match: "Probably the most memorable match for me wasn't a big win or anything. It was the first match I got to start in my redshirt freshman year against Jackson State. I had a really good match and I always remember that one because I had to wait a whole year to get to play. That's the big one to me, but every win is special to me - especially in conference."
"What will you remember: Probably that it was a lot of hard work but it was a lot of fun, too. I got to have great teammates and have great memories with them. I will remember all of that and they will always have a great place in my heart."
Here's a look back at Driscoll's career on and off the court in the words of coach Diane Seymour and some returning UTA players:
Diane Seymour: "We definitely saw Christy grow up a lot, for sure. She was a good volleyball player and a dynamite student when she got here, but the maturity in seeing her grow up into a young adult is probably the best thing about it. She's such a perfectionist and she struggled with that early in her career, but to see her mature and learn to handle that is going to help her in life. I'm pleased that over the course of the last few weeks she is playing the best volleyball of her career here and that's what we expected of her. We'd love to see her stay and play one more year, but I certainly understand her decision to move on and do what's important to her in getting that doctorate in physical therapy. She's very similar to Raegan - having been around her in club for four years before she got here, she knows exactly what's expected of her and she demonstrates that very well during practice and match play. If she's not getting her job done and has to sit on the bench for a few rotations, she never sulks or mopes about it and when she gets her chance to go back in she fixes it. I think our players around her can learn from that - there is an expectation for our student-athletes to meet on and off the court and we expect them to not whine about it. Just do the best you can. That's what Christy's always done."
Amanda Aguilera: "We call her Momma Christy because she helps us with everything: schedules, homework, packing, wake-up calls... everything!"
Tara Frantz: "I will miss Christy because she is someone I could always count on - no matter what the need is."
Emily Gentle: "What I will remember most about the play of Christy is that loud annoying scream when she comes off the court."
Charae Grosser: "Christy was like my volleyball mom. She would always tug me around the court and make sure I was in the right spot so I wouldn't get in trouble. She was my guidance in the gym while she was here."
Taylor Jacobs: "Christy was such a good role model for me to look up to. By watching her, I learned so much."
Jessica Jiles: "I will miss having the person on the team who hates changes and loves to do the same thing every time. I will also miss how smart she is and the fact that you can ask her anything and she will know the answer. Chris has always worked hard and it shows in her play. She is the best player that I have seen that gets around and kills the rep."
Chelsea Mayor: "My favorite memory of Christy is hearing her wild banshee yell at the beginning of every game. I always enjoyed seeing how Christy is a smart player and knows her way around the court so well."
Alicia Shaffer: "Momma Christy was always there to help me study and give me a shirt for practice."
Kendall Whitson: "I will always remember you making sure we are always doing things right! I will also remember you being the mommy of the team."
A four-year starter, Sauls was named Honorable Mention All-Southland Conference last season. She is UTA's active leader in kills, and aces. Sauls was named the UT Arlington Hilton Invitational Most Valuable Player this season and has been named to preseason all-tournament teams five times in her career. Sauls made the Academic All-Southland Conference team last year and has made the SLC Honor roll in each of her three seasons.
Here's a look back in Sauls' own words:
Lasting memory: "Not my favorite match, but one I remember was the one against TCU in my sophomore year. That was a critical day in my UTA history that I clearly remember. I remember it because I had to miss the rest of the season. We had a big freshman class in that year and it really disappointed me because it was one less experience for me to play on the court and I knew it would hurt the team."
Best match memories: "I remember when we played Texas State last year and the game went to 41-39. I just remember it was so intense - taking a game that far with the back-and-forth and trading points. Even though we didn't win that game, it was the hardest I've ever fought. The North Texas match this year was a really good one too. The thing about North Texas is, because they're so close, we always play them whether it's in spring or during preseason and it's always a battle. Usually we come out with the win and we did again this year. It was really great this year battling with them." Looking back on UTA career: "Volleyball was basically my life in college. We do so much. We're always together. I think what I'll remember most is that we were a family. We all got along, which is nice because we always had good vibes and had good chemistry. I'm so proud of all my teammates."
Here's a look back at Sauls' career on and off the court in the words of coach Diane Seymour and some returning UTA players:
Diane Seymour: "She's a great one. We're not going to be able to replace Bianca. We'll have to find someone that can come close. You understand that as a coach or as someone who plays next to her because she does do everything. She sets the ball every bit as well as Raegan does and makes some incredible plays that way. She is very defensive and a very good blocker. She's obviously very offensive. She's come back in her senior year to feel pretty healthy and gone back to the jump-serve. She's been very aggressive with that. She's totally the emotional leader for our kids and just a super, super kid to have in the gym. She's good friends with everyone in there. She has a strong faith in her friends and her family and God and everything important to her and she exemplifies that every day: There are struggles you go through every day in life. Hers were some injury things and she overcame every time. I think we're seeing her really turn the corner over the last month and really play some very good volleyball. We're not going to be able to replace Bianca."
Amanda Aguilera: "I will always remember her pre-game dancing! She dances so awkward and makes everyone laugh."
Tara Frantz: "I will miss Bianca doing the "awkward" dance. She never fails to make me smile."
Emily Gentle: "Bianca is super-intense and always jumping and cheering for teammates and herself."
Charae Grosser: "The thing I will remember most about Bianca is that I was always laughing at her. She was always doing something crazy and weird that you can't help but just smile and laugh at."
Taylor Jacobs: "I will always remember how much energy she brings to the court and how well-rounded a player she is."
Jessica Jiles: "I just always saw her as more than a friend because we were so close off the court. I am not only going to lose a great teammate, but I won't have my great friend with me 24-7. Since I am aspiring to be the next right-side, I have always looked at Bianca's play. From her energy to her physical athleticism and ability to play, she has always impressed me."
Chelsea Mayor: "My favorite memory of Bianca is hanging out with her outside of volleyball and getting our eyebrows threaded. On the court, I enjoy watching her enthusiasm and heart for the game."
Alicia Shaffer: "I'll always remember her crazy dancing and her different moods all the time."
Kendall Whitson: "I will always remember how intense you get during games and your awkward dancing."A look at the record book
3:30 p.m. Monday, November 8, 2010
Entering the final week of the season, this is a perfect time to take a look at where some of the UT Arlington players stand in the all-time record books.
For starters, libero Alicia Shaffer has already cemented herself in the records. Shaffer tied the program's single-match record when she recorded 43 digs at Stephen F. Austin on Oct. 27. Shaffer has also become the first player since Ashley Smith in 2006 to win back-to-back Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week awards.
With two matches remaining, Shaffer is already fourth in UTA single-season digs with 535. With six more digs this season Shaffer would move into third and she could move as high as second if she can tally 22 more digs before the season ends.
Shaffer is also climbing the career charts in digs. She has 1,315 in her career and would crack the program's all-time digs list with 55 more. If Shaffer can stay on her current pace this season and put together a strong senior season, she should challenge to become the program's all-time leader in digs. Smith is the current record-holder with 1,921.
Setter Reagan Daniel is wrapping up her career and should finish top-10 all-time in career attack percentage. She also ranks seventh all-time in assists with 2,799. Daniel is not likely to climb any higher because the next person on the list, Emily Nedderman, has 3,489 assists.
Looking back on a streak-ending win
2:00 p.m. Friday, October 29, 2010
Beating Stephen F. Austin has not been something that happened every year for the current UT Arlington players.
Until Wednesday, no current player had ever beaten the Ladyjacks. SFA had won 10 consecutive matches in the series and hadn't lost to UTA in Nacogdoches since 2000.
That all came crashing down when the Mavs posted their strongest defensive effort of the season, recording 116 digs in their five-set victory.
For the players, the win brought elation.
"It was a relief that we finally did it," libero Alicia Shaffer said. "It was at their home court and when we beat them it was step for us."
Before UTA won Game 2 in Arlington earlier this season, the Ladyjacks had won 28 straight sets.
The Mavs trailed 2-1 through three sets before getting back on track in Game 4. The set was tied 6-6 before UTA rattled off 11 of the next 12 points.
Middle blockers Christy Driscoll and Emily Shearin provided the biggest difference. They both got more involved in the offense, helping break Stephen F. Austin's spell over the Mavericks.
"I think especially for us older people, we know the history of it and we understand how long it's been," Driscoll said. "We understood the feeling of going to Johnson Coliseum and just being a really negative environment and all the loss that's gone on over there. We have been two good teams that have battled a lot. It just feels really good that we can be on the other side of it."
Reserves stepping up for Mavs
2:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Over the last few matches, several sparsely used Mavericks have come off the bench to contribute.
Charae Grosser is probably the best example. Grosser, a sophomore middle blocker, has spelled Christy Driscoll at times to add more offensive spark.
Grosser impressed coaches during the summer with her hard work and by staying to put in additional time. However, an elbow injury sidelined her for more than a month and left her needing to play catch-up.
Now she has claimed a bigger role on the team. Grosser has played sparingly in the last five matches and has five kills.
Though the blocking ability of Driscoll and Emily Shearin keep them firmly entrenched in the as the team's starting middle blockers, Grosser's offensive element gives UTA coach Diane Seymour another option.
"She goes around the setter and attacks from that back antennae pretty well," Seymour said. "She can hopefully get us out of some situations when our other two middles might be struggling. If not, you hope that she lights a fire under them that they need to increase their offensive numbers a little bit. Defensively, they've been blocking OK, but they're not putting up the offensive numbers we need from them."
Seymour also said she wouldn't be surprised if Grosser earned more playing time as the Mavs make their stretch run.
Outside hitters Eld-hah Kaswatuka and Emily Gentle have also been pressed into action because Tara Frantz has missed the previous two matches.
Kaswatuka started the first eight matches before Amanda Aguilera won the starting spot.
Kaswatuka struggled in her first match back in the starting lineup, but bounced back with 11 kills at Northwestern State.
Gentle, a true freshman, has three kills in the last two matches.
Looking Back: Seymour's 100th Win, UTA's First Road Win in '10
12:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 29, 2010
- - - LAUREN SNOOK Last weekend's five-game win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, marked UTA Coach Diane Seymour's 100th win of her career. It also gave the Mavericks their first win away from Texas Hall this year.
Seymour said her seniors were highly motivated and were a big reason why the Mavs pulled out the victory.
"I think everyone (breathes) that sigh of relief you get when you get that first win on the road," Seymour said. "That was a big step to come back at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi."
Seymour said the team didn't necessarily have to be undefeated on the road in order to have a good seed going into the Southland Conference Tournament. Instead, UTA just needs to perform at home while also playing at a .500-or-better clip away from home.
To accomplish that feat, the Mavs must find ways to continue their strong blocking game. They managed just six blocks in a loss at UTSA, but bounced back with 15 blocks in the win over the Islanders.
Seymour said blocking is a big momentum-builder and it was a key to the win on Saturday.
"[Emily Shearin]'s a big part of our blocking success," said Seymour. "She turned around and had a good performance on Saturday."
The defense hasn't relied solely on blocks. Libero Alicia Shaffer has played very well lately, posting 75 digs in her last three matches, and defensive specialist Kendall Whitson posted a career-high 14 digs at UTSA.
Seymour said, statistically, Whitson played better on Thursday, but she also took care of business Saturday. Whitson has performed well on serve receive and is very dependable on the routine plays.
"She makes the people around her more comfortable because she can handle her area," Seymour said. "She's not just a freshman out there getting some playing time."
On the offensive side, junior, outside hitter, Amanda Aguilera had 20 kills and 24 digs on Thursday against UTSA.
Seymour said this was the best Aguilera had played in the past two seasons.
"This is getting closer back to what Amanda was back when she produced very well for us during her freshman year," Seymour said.
Seymour said that having to come back from a deficit against TAMU-CC wasn't how she wanted to start the match, but it showed the team's fight.
She credited the seniors as being parts of the reason the other players have started putting up bigger numbers, performing well and not giving up.
"They're very, very tough right now," Seymour said. "They're making the others step up around them, too."
The Mavericks travel to Lake Charles, Louis. to take on Mcneese State on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 7:00 p.m. Then, they head back to Texas to take on Lamar University in Beaumont on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 1:00 p.m.UT Arlington Volleyball Blog: Getting Back on Track at Home
2:30 p.m. Thursday, September 16, 2010
- - - LUKE BRIETZKE The three-player race for the two outside hitter spots is warming up.
Tara Frantz and Eld-hah Kaswatuka started the first eight matches this season, but Amanda Aguilera has made a charge of late.
Aguilera, a junior, got her opportunity to step up over the weekend and made the most of it. In three starts, Aguilera compiled 32 kills and 21 digs.
Kaswatuka and Frantz both turned in strong performances during the first weekend, but have not consistently played up to their potential this season.
UTA coach Diane Seymour said Aguilera brings a renewed competitive streak to the position battle.
"Amanda came in and really helped out at that outside hitter spot for the weekend when Eld-hah and Tara both struggled a little bit," Seymour said. "That's a great bright spot and it should be a pretty good three-man race between the three of them to play that outside hitter spot from week to week. It's a good sign that, after sitting on the bench for a couple weeks, she was able to step up when we weren't playing well and put up some pretty good numbers."
Seymour had a hard time trying to put her finger on what caused her team's uncharacteristic sloppy play over the weekend.
The Mavericks struggled on the attack throughout the four-match stint at the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic. They also committed significantly more errors in every facet - attack, receiving and service - than usual. As a result, they came home from the tournament having lost all four matches.
"You've got to control your errors in every sport you play, but it's especially important in volleyball because everything happens so quickly," Seymour said.
Still, there were a few positives to take out of the weekend. Freshman setter Chelsea Mayor got her first game experience and proved herself at the collegiate level in close matches. Seymour said she wouldn't hesitate to insert Mayor into the lineup for a little extra defense or when she needs an aggressive serve.
The play of Kendall Whitson proved to be the other positive. Whitson, another freshman, played libero in the final three matches. Seymour said she was pleased with her overall effort.
"It was refreshing to know that, if we need to, we can make that switch at the libero," Seymour said.
Whitson's play also gives UTA an option depending on the matchups. Seymour said Alicia Shaffer is a little better defensively because of her experience and ability to read opposing hitters. Whitson adds a little more of an offensive dynamic because of her crisp, precise passes.
The Mavericks open the UT Arlington Hilton Invitational against UTEP, Friday night at 7 p.m. at Texas Hall.
They also face Prairie View A&M at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, returning to the court later in the night to play North Texas at 7:30 p.m.
This weekend will mark the first time since 1999 that UT Arlington and UTEP have faced off. Seymour knows Prairie View A&M presents a challenge because it took UTSA to four games on two separate occasions last year. She also hopes UTA can continue the Southland Conference's winning ways against North Texas, which is 1-4 against SLC foes this year.
More importantly, Seymour hopes her team can right the ship this weekend before heading into conference play.
"Streaks are made to be broken and streaks are made to be started," she said. "Right now we're on a five-match losing streak. It's time for that to stop and it's time for a winning streak to start. The biggest thing is to try to get our confidence back up before Southland Conference play starts."
UT Arlington Volleyball Blog: Preparing for the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic
4:50 p.m. Tuesday, September 7, 2010
- - - LUKE BRIETZKE
One set into last weekend, UT Arlington could have thought to itself how long the season might become.
The Mavericks allowed Arkansas-Little Rock to limit them to just nine points at Texas Hall and take a 1-0 lead over the hosts of the UT Arlington Maverick Classic.
With the team sitting on an 0-3 record, the negative thoughts could have crept into the players' minds.
Instead, the Mavs responded by winning their next 10 sets, including the first against Mississippi State on Saturday night. UT Arlington finished the weekend 3-1 with wins over UALR, Louisiana Tech and UT Pan American. The Mavs swept Louisiana Tech and UTPA.
Balanced scoring became a theme for the weekend. Setter Raegan Daniel did an outstanding job of setting up not just outside hitters Eld-hah Kaswatuka, Tara Frantz and Bianca Sauls, but middle blockers Emily Shearin and Christy Driscoll as well. Shearin and Driscoll combined for 57 kills and just 18 errors.
UT Arlington coach Diane Seymour pointed to their contributions as one reason the team found more success than at the Nike Invitational the previous week.
"That was huge for us," Seymour said. "That was one thing - we didn't think we got enough balls to our middle blockers in the opening weekend at Oklahoma and we really focused on that last week and talked to the two of them as well: Make sure you're up and available and ready for Raegan to get you involved because we need for the two of you to score. Obviously they answered very well. That's a good sign for us."
The high-power offense marked only one change from the previous weekend. UTA players also committed themselves to the defensive side.
Libero Alicia Shaffer recorded 78 digs for the tournament, including a pair of contests in which she finished with 23. Reserve defensive specialist Kendall Whitson also increased her production.
"Defense was the other focus," Seymour said. "We knew that if we got our dig production up as well, that would help get balls to our middle blockers. It was a combination there. Alicia had an outstanding weekend. I think Kendall's getting a little more acclimated to the college game and she has a great serve that keeps the opposing teams off-balance a little bit. She's starting to get some big digs in there as well."
It wasn't just the defensive specialists, either. Kaswatuka, for instance, posted 20 digs in the Mississippi State match.
The rededication to defense propelled the Mavericks to their strongest defensive effort of the season in a 3-0 win over UT Pan American. UT Arlington held the Broncos to a -.008 hitting percentage in the victory - keeping a team below .000 for the first time since the season opener in 2005.
Now the Mavs need to find a way to erase the troubles that have come with playing away from Texas Hall this season.
It will likely be a challenge. Improved teams from Boise State, Wyoming, Portland and a Northern Colorado team that won the Big Sky Conference in 2009 await the Mavericks at the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic in Laramie, Wyo.
Seymour said last weekend she wants similar kill numbers from Frantz and Kaswatuka, but would like to see them commit fewer errors on the attack.
If UT Arlington pulls it all together, the Mavs would have a chance to get Seymour her 100th career win. The seventh-year coach enters the weekend with 96 victories to her credit.
"I think we have to play with the same intensity we played with at Texas Hall here all weekend," Seymour said. "We only played poorly in maybe one or two sets all weekend here. We bounced back from our first set against Little Rock and we competed well against Mississippi State. If the intensity stays right where it was at the end of the weekend, we should be in good shape."
For more on this weekend's tournament, watch an interview with Seymour here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm11VN5JuscUT Arlington Volleyball Blog: Looking ahead at UT Arlington Maverick Classic
3:36 p.m. Thursday, September 2, 2010
- - - LAUREN SNOOK
UT Arlington coach Diane Seymour knows the importance of getting that sometimes-elusive first win out of the way early during this weekend's UT Arlington Maverick Classic.
The Mavericks were very competitive in two of three matches at the Nike Invitational in Norman, Okla. All three came against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams and the Mavs narrowly avoided an upset win over Miami (Fla.).
Now, the Mavs are ready to get things rolling at home with wins and - hopefully - a tournament championship.
UTA hosts four teams in the two-day, nine-match event - Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas-Little Rock and UT Pan American this weekend at Texas Hall.
Seymour gave an overview of the Mavs' upcoming opponents and what they are expecting from each of the teams, joking that the familiarity with the Trojans ought to provoke a name-change for the tournament.
"We should call this the `UTA-Arkansas Little Rock Invitational' they come every year, so we'll open up against an Arkansas Little Rock team," Seymour said. "They did lose to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi so that will kind of be an opponent that I think we can open up with our first win."
At 4-0 with a tournament title under its belt, Mississippi State could be considered the favorite entering the week. Last week, freshman setter from Mississippi State, Paris Perret, was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week.
"We haven't played Mississippi State in a long time, so we're looking forward to seeing them," Seymour said. "Obviously since they play in one of the better volleyball conferences in the country, they should be the best opponent we face in this tournament."
Still, Seymour said she likes her team's chances - if the Mavs play up to potential. She said she was anxious to scout the Lady Bulldogs play before they're across the net from them on Saturday night.
When talking about this weekend, Seymour emphasized the importance of bringing up the number of digs during each set.
"If we're going to lead the league in blocking, then we're going to have to pick up the number of digs we have," Seymour said. "As far as the Southland goes, and that's how I kind of weigh how we're doing, we're dead last in the number of digs per set, and that's got to change for us to be successful this season."
Seymour said that all-around defense improves each of the players' performances on the court. Blocking was a concern of Seymour's, but she has confidence that Emily Shearin, junior middle blocker will deliver.
"We need Emily to put up more blocking numbers for us, which will help our defense," Seymour said. "She is at her best when both parts of her game are going. If we're feeding her balls and she's getting kills for us, she blocks better, just because that's the intensity she has and vice versa."
Seymour added that Raegan Daniel, setter for the Mavs, will be utilizing her middle blockers more than she did last weekend.
"We're going to force the issue to get them more balls," Seymour said.
That should alleviate some of the pressure off outside hitters Eld-hah Kaswatuka and Tara Frantz, who combined for 59 kills last weekend. If the Mavericks can open up opportunities on the inside, it will spread out the defense and make everyone's job on the attack a little easier.
UTA opens the tournament Friday at 1 p.m. against UALR. All students who attend the game will be treated to a free lunch.COURTSIDE VIEW
Get all of the information on Mavericks Volleyball with Luke Brietzke, Sports Information Director.UT Arlington Volleyball Blog: Eye on the NCAAs
11:27 a.m. Thursday, August 26, 2010
- - - LUKE BRIETZKE
UT Arlington opens its season this weekend against three opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2009 - Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma and Wichita State.
For the young Mavericks team, the brutal competition in the Nike Invitational is a reminder from head coach Diane Seymour: That is the level at which she wants her team to play.
"Sometimes you look for tournaments where you can go and win and get some confidence," Seymour said Thursday before the team left for Norman, Okla. "Sometimes you pick some tournaments where you go and find out what you're made of."
The seventh-year coach has high expectations for UTA, who's win total jumped from seven to 12 wins a year ago. UT Arlington returns the bulk of its starting lineup from 2009 and was picked to tie for fourth in the Southland Conference West.
Seymour has her sights set much higher. She said this season, as with every season, the team's goal is to return to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southland.
"I felt really good about this group of returners we have and I felt like this would be a really good opportunity to play three teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year and find out where we stack up early this season," Seymour said. "If we win some of these matches, that will be great. No doubt. We are very capable of beating any of the three opponents."
UT Arlington proved last year that it can compete with some elite competition. The Mavericks had the Sooners against the ropes last year, leading 2-1 before Oklahoma won the final two games.
The UTA roster features just two seniors - setter Raegan Daniel and Bianca Sauls - but returns plenty of experience. So much so that a few players accustomed to seeing regular playing time might have to work their way into the starting lineup.
The fiercest competition has been at the outside hitter spot opposite all-Southland performer Tara Frantz . Amanda Aguilera , Emily Gentle and Eld-Hah Kaswatuka present different options for the coaching staff. All four are expected to get playing time this weekend, but Kaswatuka's blocking ability might earn her the first chance to start.
Gentle and fellow freshman Kendall Whitson , a defensive specialist, are both expected to get their first collegiate experience this weekend as well.
Seymour hopes her team, which has never had a player compete in the NCAA Tournament, leaves Norman with a better understanding of what getting the program back to that level will take.
"I think this is a good opportunity for us to see where we stack up against some of the best teams in the nation," Seymour said. "Especially our older kids, I think this opportunity will show us exactly what level we need to be at now or three months from now."